Fishermen welcome mackerel sanctions

Scottish fishermen have welcomed the news that the European Parliament and the Danish Presidency have agreed a comprehensive sanctions package against countries and territories engaged in unsustainable fishing practices.

The agreement now paves the way for the implementation of trade sanctions against Iceland and the Faroes in response to the massive autonomous quotas they have set for mackerel that are not part of any responsible international fisheries management arrangements.

The broad ranging sanction measures agreed means the EU is now in the position to apply “quantitative restrictions” on the imports into the EU of Icelandic or Faroese caught mackerel, which would also have the scope to cover other fish species associated with the fishery.

There is a broad definition to these ‘associated species’, so in effect it could cover a wide range of fishery products.

Other sanction measures agreed include restrictions on the use of EU ports by vessels flying the flag of the country or territory deemed to be over-fishing, and restrictions on boats transporting fish and fishery products from the stock of common interest and associated species.

There is also scope to further tighten the sanction measures if it is deemed that the initial measures are proving ineffective.

Ian Gatt, chief executive of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said: “We have been calling for these sanction measures for a long time and we are delighted at this sanctions package.

“The two most important elements are for the sanction measures to be meaningful, which is clearly the case here, and the second is the timing of implementation so as to ensure that these measures are in place prior to the commencement of the October negotiations.

“Hopefully these measures will make Iceland and the Faroes realise that their unsustainable fishing practices will not be tolerated by the responsible international fisheries community.

“It is vital that both these countries now come back to the negotiating table and reach a sensible international management arrangement for the precious mackerel stock that will ensure a sustainable future for the fishery.

“The Scottish fishing industry would in particular like to thank the important role played by Pat the Cope Gallagher MEP for helping broker this sanctions agreement.”

Iceland has unilaterally increased its mackerel catch from only 363 tonnes in 2005 to 147,000 tonnes in 2012. The Faroese autonomous quota has soared from 27,830 tonnes in 2009 to 149,000 tonnes in 2012.